The California Medical Board wrote me a certified letter in April saying that my medical board investigation has been resolved and my case closed. They published only a public reprimand letter as their final decision and nothing else.
2 weeks later I received a $500 citation from the California Medical Board for supposedly falsely claiming to be board certified in the state of California. As a physician who is board certified under NBPAS and not ABFM, I’m not considered “Board Certified” in the state of California.
When I received the certified letter along with the $500 citation, I had 3 options and one was to have an informal hearing, which is the option I chose. Today I had that phone appointment for my informal hearing for the medical board citation appeal.
This is also referred to as an Informal Conference. It’s something you can do with your lawyer – and probably should do with your lawyer – but I chose to do this one alone.
I consulted a lawyer who said that she could be present on the phone call but wouldn’t be able to speak on my behalf. If I would have hired her then we would do a strategy session in order to prep me for the phone call. Her staff would also do an online biopsy to see where my I am listed as board certified.
I had my phone appointment and received a call from someone from the California Medical Board on my cell at that specific time. She read off a legal paragraph to me and asked if I had anyone else on the line. Then she asked me to plead my case.
The appointment was arranged by another person from the medical board office by email. So they contacted me by certified mail and then continued to communicate with me via email. I am still a bit perplexed by this since I am not aware of any laws where the USPS has power over an IP communication.
Since I didn’t and don’t know where this false advertising claim stems from, I had no way of preparing for this phone appointment other than just winging it.
My Appeal Against the Citation
The citation states that I advertised myself as a board certified physician in California. Only a physician who is board certified under ABFM – a branch of the ABMS – can make such a claim in the state of California as of January 2019.
This new law trademarks this phrase under the monopoly of the ABMS; an organization which has gotten a lot of heat for mishandling funds and MOC practices which haven’t held up under scrutiny.
I let the California Medical Board representative know that I have never had the need to advertise myself as board certified since I’ve always been employed and never had my own medical practice.
I mentioned to her that I did a search of my name and found myself listed on numerous 3rd party websites as board certified. I have no control over these websites and there are far too many for me to be able to oversee.
I was listed under Just Answer as being board certified. Since Oregon and Washington consider me to be board certified for having successfully completed 4 years of a Family Medicine residency at an ACGME accredited residency, this was an accurate representation. No false advertising there. Nor was I the one advertising myself as being board certified. I don’t have any control over how JA uses my information.
Timing of Legal Changes
I pointed out to the medical board representative that when I agreed to attend my Family Medicine residency I assumed that I would come out with that specialty designation. If California decided to later change their laws and only recognize the ABMS then that shouldn’t take effect retroactively.
I informed her that I decided to let my ABFM board certification lapse in December of 2018. The law changed January 2019. I wasn’t aware of this law, nobody notified me that such a law was even in the process of being considered, and I wasn’t given any warning after the law went into effect.
March 2019 is when the attorney for the California Medical Board accused me before the Administrative Law Judge of intentionally and illegally advertising myself as a board certified physicians in the state of California. I suspect that this is where this citation originated.
I’m not sure why the Administrative Law Judge didn’t address this in her final judgement after my medical board hearing. But it was an incredibly intense and heated court hearing and there was a lot going on – maybe this point just got lost in the shuffle.
I requested that the fine be dropped because I have never advertised myself as board certified to California patients. And that the work I do for Just Answer as a medical expert is nationwide and worldwide and not limited to California clients.
Nor do I have any control of how I am portrayed online. But that I would cooperate with the medical board and request corrections if that’s truly my job to do so. But that I would need to know exactly which entities they would like me to request a correction from and to give me a reasonable lead time.
Waiting for the Citation Appeal Decision
After gather all of the information, she said that she will get back to me with her final decision in 2 weeks. In the meantime there is nothing else for me to do.
I assumed that she would make her decision on the spot since the matter was rather straightforward and we already had a court case over it and I had already replied to their initial letter of inquiry. But I am guessing that she has to do her due diligence before making her final decision.
The entire conversation for this informal hearing took just shy of 16 minutes. She was professional and to the point. She was mostly gathering information from me and getting my side of the story. That’s it.